Angelique Kerber, the defending champion, was ruthlessly swept aside by Naomi Osaka, in just over an hour, at the US open in the first round. It is not just this tournament though, and many would say that they had seen it coming. The upset of the champion has not come as a surprise, because she has not been playing at the level that saw her rise to the top of the rankings last year.
Kerber’s record this year has been 25 wins and 18 losses. She was at 63-18, when she ended her season last season. A quick recap of Kerber’s 2016 year-two grand slam titles, an Olympic silver medal, and the world number one position at the end of the year. What went wrong? Yesterday’s demolition was just another example of how she has been playing for the entire year. No construction of points, too many unforced errors, no confidence in the rallies and most importantly a drop in her down the line shot frequency. A player known for her defensive style of play, Kerber looked nowhere near her defensive best in the first round, as her opponent bludgeoned 22 winners past her.
Kerber will slide down the rankings next week to as low as no.16, after spending five long years in the top ten of the women’s singles rankings. But the way she is playing, nobody knows how deep she is going to slide down the pit, and whether she will be at number 16 for long or fade away down the rankings like so many others.
Kerber believes she will come back stronger, and better out of this experience, and that giving up is not in her options list. We sure do hope that she regains her confidence and form, but at the age of 29, it sure looks like her peak days are well past her, and it will be a long road up the hill this time.